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Knit 1, purl 2: Volunteers teach after-school knitting class in Willmar

WILLMAR -- Hanna Herzog was knitting away using a skein of soft, pastel green yarn. She already had a nice rectangle of knitting hanging from her needles Wednesday afternoon.

WILLMAR - Hanna Herzog was knitting away using a skein of soft, pastel green yarn. She already had a nice rectangle of knitting hanging from her needles Wednesday afternoon.

Not bad for her third after-school knitting class at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. Nearly a dozen fifth-graders were knitting with yarn of many hues - several shades of blue and green, blaze orange, baby pink, red and glittery purple.

A trio of women sat with the children, volunteers from the community who have taught the free after-school knitting class for the past five years. Kids bring their own yarn and needles to class.

In classes every Wednesday and Thursday through March 23, the volunteers will teach kids how to cast on to begin a project, a basic knit stitch, a purl stitch and how to cast off to complete a project.

Karen Rousseau of Willmar, who has been with the program since its beginning, said they have found fifth grade is a good age to teach knitting.

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The class started Feb. 22. Early on the goal is to get students used to knitting. The ultimate goal is to have the students finish a small project, "so they can show people they can do it," Rousseau said.

For Hanna, "once I got the hang of it," knitting wasn't that hard. "I'm gonna teach my grandma how to do it, because she always wanted to know," she said.

The course is coordinated by Heidi Burton, the child guide at Roosevelt. The size of the class doubled this year, and volunteers were added, because it was so popular. "These women are so kind," she said.

Many of the students will make simple projects in the class, like headbands, coasters or scarves. Some have much bigger plans. Students talked about wanting to eventually make a jacket, a blanket, even baby socks.

Ivy Williams was working at a table with volunteer Ellen Martin, in her first year working with the class and loving it. The volunteers are part of a group that meets to knit Wednesday evenings at Caribou Coffee.

"My great-grandma sews and knits," Ivy said, and now they will be able to knit together.

"It's fun," Ivy added. "I don't really like loudness; I like quiet."

Many of the students have family members who know how to knit or want to learn.

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For Gavyn Evenson, the class was a chance to try something new. His late great-grandmother was a knitter.

Bonnie Martinson, a volunteer in her third year with the class, said the girls at her table were doing very well. One of the toughest things in the beginning is learning how to get the tension right, not too loose and not too tight, and just one of them was having problems with that.

Martinson said she always enjoys the knitting class. She makes a point of wearing something she's knitted to every class. On Wednesday, she wore an impressive green sweater.

Gabriela Pascasio said she wanted to learn to knit, because her late grandmother made blankets. Her mother wants to learn, too.

Drew Lindquist is a sixth-grader who joins the class as a volunteer. He learned to knit in the class last year and enjoyed it so much he kept going. He often joins the Wednesday group at Caribou Coffee.

"It's kinda relaxing," Drew said as he worked on a gift for his mother. It's more fun now that he's "past the basics," too.

According to education websites, knitting can be beneficial for students.

Along with developing fine motor skills, knitting is creative and it's something they can do for a lifetime. Following a pattern requires counting and recognizing repeating patterns. Recognizing errors and figuring out how to fix them helps develop problem-solving skills.

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Some resources for knitting with kids:

• Go to bit.ly/2mfE1YF for the article, "Teaching Kids to Knit."

• Educationworld.com has an article, "Building Close-Knit Communities: Handcraft Makes a Comeback," at

•" target="_blank">bit.ly/2lz3OqG

Read a blog about the benefits of knitting at " target="_blank">bit.ly/2lEYbbi
Related Topics: ROOSEVELT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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